Sunday, September 24, 2023

Baseball in French, Lesson 9: Le Ballon

Welcome to Baseball in French, Lesson 9. Previous lessons can be found here.
Today's term is le ballon
In English, that translates to "the balloon". What's the baseball translation?

Fly ball.

Here are three Expos who certainly hit their share of ballons—many of which went far enough to float right over the outfield fence. 

Of all the French baseball terminology we've covered in this series so far, I think ballon could be the most questionable. I mean, I suppose a high, soft fly ball that an outfielder can settle under might resemble a balloon floating up into the sky. And if we've learned anything from other romantic French baseball terms like "butterfly ball" for knuckleball or "the arrow" for line drive, then sure, a balloon would be similarly romantic. So it works

And I also suppose that it would be a derogatory way for the hitter to refer to it.

Argh! Stupid balloon. Didn't even hit it far enough into the outfield to let the runners tag up.

Anyhow, let's look at some stats for those three big balloon hitters above.

Vladimir Guerrero began his career with the Expos in 1996. In his 8 seasons there, he put up 1215 hits, 226 doubles, 34 triples, 234 home runs, 702 RBI, and 641 runs scored, with a robust .323/.390/.588 slash line. You can add 123 stolen bases on top of that. He was an All-Star and Silver Slugger while with Montreal.
Andres Galarraga began his career with the Expos in 1985. In his 7 seasons there, he put up 906 hits, 180 doubles, 14 triples, 115 home runs, 473 RBI, and 424 runs scored, with a .269/.328/.432 slash line. He was an All-Star, Gold Glover, and Silver Slugger while with Montreal. In 1988 he led the N.L. in hits (184) and doubles (42).
Larry Walker began his career with the Expos in 1989. In his 6 seasons there, he put up 666 hits, 147 doubles, 16 triples, 99 home runs, 384 RBI, and 368 runs scored, with a .281/.357/.483 slash line. Like Andres Galarraga, Walker was an All-Star, Gold Glover, and Silver Slugger while with Montreal. In 1994, his final year with the Expos, he led the N.L. in doubles with 44.

That's-a-lotta balloons.

Still, I'm going to stick with "fly ball"—or one of the many other colorful terms we've got here in the States. Can of corn, Texas-leaguer, bloop, looper, loud out, moonshot.

So what do you readers say? Balloon, or no balloon?

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Another WRIPP Card from Gavin!

Back in July, I shared two super-cool pieces of 1/1 cardart that Gavin from Baseball Card Breakdown sent to me. Both of them featured Bo Jackson's 1988 Topps card, re-imagined as Donruss variations, all done by Gavin's hand.
What I didn't share was that he included one more card in that envelope. And it was also a 1/1. 

It was another card from his Warhol Rose Infinite Parallels Project! (Also known as WRIPP.) Appropriately, it features Bo Jackson. This time he's superimposed with the Hit King. And both of them are staring you down. Pretty cool effect.
Gavin started the WRIPP earlier this year, and the most fun part about it is that anyone can join in. Shortly after he announced the project, I tried my hand at a couple of WRIPP cards and sent them to Gavin. In return, he sent me one of his versions. So now, with the addition of the Pete Rose/Bo Jackson parallel above, I'm very happy to have two WRIPP cards from Gavin in my collection. I might have to create a few more to send out to people as well.

I encourage all of you readers and collectors to visit Gavin's original WRIPP post, download the template he created, and try a couple of parallels of your own. You can create your design digitally and then print it out, or you can print out the starter template and then use any type of media you'd like on top of that: colored pencils, markers, ink pens, newspaper print, stickers, anything.
We've got a long way to go on this project—forever, in fact—so I really do hope you'll create some WRIPP cards, number them 1/1, and send them out to friends and fellow collectors.

Here's what the back of Gavin's WRIPP cards look like:

You can style your card backs similarly or differently, but it helps to indicate that it's a WRIPP card and a 1/1.

So have fun with it, and share your designs with the blogosphere. Maybe one day you'll receive a WRIPP card in the mail, too.

Thanks for another cool piece of art, Gavin, and thanks for reading, everyone.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

A Custom Card of Elaine? Get OUT!

Back in 2019, I started my custom card journey with a design featuring George Costanza from the hit show Seinfeld. It's been quite a fun ride on the custom train since then, and I'm getting pretty close to having completed 100 unique designs. (More on that in a future blog post.)

Last year, a couple of those unique designs featured another two characters from the show: Cosmo Kramer and Jerry Seinfeld
There was only one more character needed to complete the legendary quartet. And here she is:

Elaine Benes!
If you're a fan of the show, you'll know why she's wearing that Baltimore Orioles cap. (And no, she is not taking it off.)
As for the on-card action, let's imagine that Ms. Benes has just hit a home run against the Yankees, and now she's displaying her signature dance move—little kicks—just before she crosses home plate. In fact, her playing position at the top left is listed as "little kicker".
To stay true to many of the original 1956 Topps cards, all that action has kicked up some dust around Elaine's feet. And look closer: With all the "full body heaves set to music", her batting helmet is flying right off!

If you're unfamiliar with all those references, here's a clip that'll fill in the blanks:

So that's that. Another custom card is in the books. I'm happy to have finally completed the Seinfeld "fab four".

More fun stuff to come.

Sunday, September 3, 2023

A Grandpa Gets a Custom Card

Any person can consider themselves fortunate if they've grown up in the presence of their grandparents—even more so if that presence was a steady, strong, positive one. I'm grateful to have had that experience, as three of my four grandparents were around during my childhood and teenage years. I even shared a story about one of my grandfathers here on the blog a few years ago. He was truly a best friend, and I think about him often.
Well, a few months ago, a fellow trading card blogger named Luke (also known as Twinkiller) reached out to me with a request for a custom card. He explained that the card would feature his grandfather, who played minor league ball in the 1960s, and that he'd be giving the finished product to his grandfather as a gift. Photo on the front, stats on the back.
There was no doubt in my mind that I'd be taking on the project—even if it had to go on the back burner while I finished up some other work. Grandfathers are just too special, and I knew Luke felt the same way.

So, he sent me all the info: a card design choice, a photograph, a slight bit of backstory, and a link to his grandfather's baseball-reference page. And I got to work.

Here's the result:

Luke was even able to procure a facsimile signature for the card front!
I'm very happy with the way it turned out, and so was he—enough to ask me for a bunch of copies that he could give out to other family members!

And really, what a cool tribute. I've designed nearly 100 custom cards over the past few years, and some of them are pretty special to me. However, I'll say honestly that this one ranks right at the top because of the significance it has for the Swanson family. I'm both happy and honored to have been a part of such a meaningful project.

Thank you for getting in touch and asking me to work on this with you, Luke. It's truly a great tribute to your grandfather. Here's to the man!

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Baseball in French, Lesson 8: Le Blanchissage

Welcome to Baseball in French, Lesson 8. Previous lessons can be found here.
Today's term is le blanchissage.
In English, that translates to "laundry" or "washing". What's the baseball translation?


Here's a trio of Expos pitchers who posted quite a few shutouts.

More specifically:
Steve Rogers: 37 shutouts as an Expo.
Bill Stoneman: 15 shutouts as an Expo, including 2 no-hitters.
Dennis Martinez: 13 shutouts as an Expo, including a perfect game.
Way to go, fellas! That's an impressive number of shutouts. 
Or, an impressive number of loads of laundry??

The French terminology confuses me. Does it mean the pitcher washed the other team out? Put them through the ringer? Hung them out to dry?
I can picture a broadcaster making that call after the final out.
And Steve Rogers has hung Atlanta out to dry today, folks! 
Or maybe 
Bill Stoneman has washed the Phillies out!
Or maybe 
Denny Martinez has just pitched a complete game shutout. Laundry time!
But this might be a better explanation: At some point while putting the post together, I discovered that in soccer, when a goalie shuts out his opponent, it's customarily called a "clean sheet". (i.e., a clean scoresheet—no goals were marked down.) So maybe le blanchissage is a creative extension of the clean sheet?

I don't know. I tend to think that a true "clean sheet" for a pitcher would be a no-hitter. Or a perfect game. But maybe that's asking too much.

In any case, it's an interesting phrase. And it adds to the lexicon. You know, terms like "he blanks the opponent" or "he puts up a goose egg", or something like that.

So I like it. I also like the laundry connection to the phrase "hanging a team out to dry".

How about you readers and baseball fans? Does le blanchissage work for you?

Share in the comment section, and thanks for reading.

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Completed Set: 1981 Topps Baseball

Imagine you're a kid in early June of 1981. Summer vacation is so close, you can taste it. You've been saving a couple of quarters every week and buying packs of Topps baseball cards, chewing the gum, looking for your favorite players, and having fun. And for the first time ever, there are even two other types of baseball cards out there—Fleer and Donruss—for you to try. It's baseball craziness. Life is good.
But then, on June 12, the Major League Baseball strike begins. No more baseball on TV. No MLB Game of the Week. Not even Mel Allen and This Week In Baseball.

It's not bad for the first couple of days. But a few weeks go by, and now you're really feeling it. Even playing baseball down at the local Little League field isn't quite the same. You still buy the occasional pack of cards—after all, you have a set to complete—but when you open them, you find guys like these inside:

Everyone is down in the dumps. It's just a total bummer.

I mean, school's out, but what's the point when you can't watch guys like Mike Schmidt, Andre Dawson, Ozzie Smith, and Pete Rose doing their thing? You mope around for another week or two, and then finally the good news arrives: The strike ends. And on August 9th, baseball is officially back—with the All-Star game, no less! 
The day after the game, you race to the local fields with your friends, and you've never swung the bat harder or run the bases faster. Soon after, you're all trotting to the corner store for some more packs of cards. 
And now you're finding guys like these inside:

Life is good again. 
And looking back, I think the 1981 Topps design only helps with those good vibes. For example, compare the baseball caps these next six guys are wearing to the illustrated baseball cap in the lower left corner of each card.


That's a heck of an effort. The artists at Topps matched the colors and design of each team's cap pretty accurately with the actual baseball caps that players were wearing—even down to the little button on top! I was just a toddler in 1981, but if I were a few years older and collecting cards, I think I would have been all over this design.
And looks aside, there's a lot of good action to be found in the photographs themselves.


Good cropping, too, don't you think? Not too tight, not too much empty space. And while it's true that the border colors often aren't matched to the team colors, I really don't mind. In fact, with the hats matching so well, it's probably better that the borders of the card didn't also match.
Let's get to the uniforms now, because in 1981 they were all over the place.

Seattle and Texas had some nice powder blues (I love that trident "M" on the Mariners cap), and San Diego had their mustard yellow and brown. Pittsburgh went with yellow pants, Houston had the tequila sunrise thing going on, and the White Sox wore pajamas. Hooray 1980s!
Next up, the small but solid solid rookie class that 1981 Topps offers us.

Honorable mention to Tony Pena, Lloyd Moseby, and the Hubie Brooks/Mookie Wilson future stars card.

There are also some great team checklists in this set.

The Rangers used the Texas-shaped scoreboard very well on their card, while the Giants went for a fancy overhead look. However, there's one team checklist in the set that beats them all.


The Padres here give us the best argument for bringing back team checklists. Look at all those guys chilling out under the palms on the sunny San Diego coastline!
Other horizontal cards include a brief summary of the A.L. and N.L. Championship series, as well as the World Series.


Next, George Brett and Bill Russell show off the all-star banners, while Mike Schmidt gives us an example of a record breaker card. Note how the baseball cap theme continues on the championship card above and Schmidt's card below.

Now here's an example of a card back. 
The black text on the pinkish background is okay. Better than some other years, for sure. And many cards received two cartoons, which is always a plus. Here are some that I enjoy.

(Astronomy = Butch Wynegar; Bicycle = Ed Ott; Screwball = Enrique Romo; Bodyguard = Lance Parrish; Billiards = Champ Summers; Amish Hat = Jim Kern; Hot Dog Vendor = Ed Glynn; Snake Hunting = Bob Davis; Pro Tennis = Barry Evans; Welder = Willie Hernandez)

Finally, a checklist, followed by the "Hit to Win" scratch-off game piece that came in every wax pack. You had a chance to win a bat, glove, baseball, and more!


And that's the 1981 Topps baseball set. I'd have to imagine it was a pretty fun set for the time period, despite the lack of baseball games in the middle of the season. Besides, once the strike did end, the abbreviated second half of the season and the playoffs were pretty great. (If you've never watched the Baseball's Seasons television series, which documents what happened in Major League Baseball season by season, I highly recommend watching the 1981 episode, and going to whichever season you want from there.)
What do you readers and collectors think about the 1981 Topps set? Share some thoughts in the comment section, and thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 13, 2023

When Even the Sluggers Had to Lay 'Em Down

Bunting used to be a much, much bigger part of the game of baseball. I know. Weird to think about, right? But it's true. Back then, you'd even see plenty of examples on trading cards.

Bucky Dent: 121 career sacrifice bunts, led A.L. in 1974 with 23.

Brett Butler: 147 career sacrifice bunts, led majors in 1992 with 24.

Ozzie Smith: 214 career sacrifice bunts, led majors in 1978 with 28 and again in 1980 with 23.

It's quite a skill. And to lead your league (or the majors) in sacrifice bunts is quite an achievement. So you'd pretty much expect to see guys like Bucky, Brett, and Ozzie pulling it off on cardboard. 
But what about the sluggers? The RBI guys? The home run guys? 
Even if you can't imagine a big hitter squaring around and laying down a sacrifice bunt at a pivotal point of the game, there's plenty of evidence on trading cards to show that at one time in history, they did.
Here are 10 cardboard examples that might surprise you, listed in order of the player's slugging percentage. I'll also list some other numbers, including career sacrifice bunts.

1982 Donruss #510, Robin Yount

Robin Yount
.430 SLG%
251 HR
1,406 RBI
104 career sac bunts
1986 Donruss #180, Harold Baines

Harold Baines
.465 SLG%
384 HR
1,628 RBI
9 career sac bunts

1989 Donruss #208, Bo Jackson

Bo Jackson
.474 SLG%
141 HR
415 RBI
2 career sac bunts
1986 Donruss Pop-Up #NNO,
Dave Winfield

 Dave Winfield
.475 SLG%
465 HR
1,833 RBI
19 career sac bunts
1989 Fleer Baseball All-Stars #32, Kirby Puckett

Kirby Puckett
.477 SLG%
207 HR
1,085 RBI
23 career sac bunts
1981 Topps #720, Fred Lynn

 Fred Lynn
.484 SLG%
306 HR
1,111 RBI
25 career sac bunts
1991 Topps Stadium Club #95, Gary Sheffield

Gary Sheffield
.514 SLG%
509 HR
1,676 RBI
9 career sac bunts
1992 Donruss #286, Edgar Martinez

Edgar Martinez
.515 SLG%
309 HR
1,261 RBI
10 career sac bunts
1991 Fleer #136, Sammy Sosa

 Sammy Sosa
.534 SLG%
609 HR
1,667 RBI
17 career sac bunts
1992 Leaf #350, Albert Belle
Albert Belle
.564 SLG%
381 HR
1,239 RBI
4 career sac bunts

The notion that Albert Belle stepped into the batter's box, looked at the third base coach, received the sign for a bunt, and actually agreed to lay one down even once in his career is hard to believe. But it happened. And there's a baseball card to prove it!
A couple of other things stood out to me while I was doing research for this post:

(1) Robin Yount was a heck of an all-around player.
(2) Kirby Puckett had a season-high 8 sacrifice bunts in 1991, a year the Twins took home the World Series Championship. Whatever it takes to get those wins, right?
So maybe that's how to get bunting back into the modern game. Get some big guys like Aaron Judge or Pete Alonso to lay down a couple of surprise bunt singles, or a sacrifice bunt that leads to a comeback win.
Here's Juan Pierre to show them how it's done:


What do you readers think about the bunt? Do we need more of it in baseball?
And which slugger in the list above were you the most surprised to see bunting on a baseball card?
Share in the comment section, and thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 6, 2023

New Custom Card Set: 1980s Film Trios

It's summertime.
School is out, blockbuster movies are in. And during the 1980s, the decade of my childhood, there sure were some absolute classics, starring some legendary actors. 
Well, at some point this past year my nostalgia for these films began to mix with my creative itch to design. I started thinking about the best way to capture some of these folksand some of the films they starred in—on custom cards. As I was going over a big list in my mind, I discovered that there were quite a few films that specifically featured a trio of big actors, all sharing the starring roles to some degree. Those film trios, as you might be thinking already, make a perfect match with a three-player rookie card. (And there are plenty of card designs to choose from there.) So with a little more thought and analysis, I narrowed down the pool to six great options, and one great card design. 

Here's a look at all six cards in the set.


(1) I thought for sure that The Karate Kid would have hit the #1 weekly rank at the box office at some point during its theater run in 1984. However, it only made it as high as #3. If you're wondering how that's possible, just look at this list of other films that were in theaters that year: Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, GremlinsBeverly Hills Cop, and The Terminator. That's a heck of a lot of star power to contend with. But that year of big films aside, The Karate Kid did have the highest total box office gross of the 6 cards featured in this set. Crane kick for the win.

(2) Trading Places finished as high as #2 in the weekly film rankings for 1983, outdone only by Return of the Jedi. Akroyd, Curtis, and Murphy were all fantastic in this film, as were most of the other characters. If you haven't seen this one yet, I highly recommend adding it to your watch list.

(3) This was the first card I thought about when getting ideas together for the set. Talk about legendary trios. Ferris, Cameron, and Sloane are hard to beat. I'm surprised the film didn't earn a little more at the box office in 1986, but all the thrills and depth from James Cameron's Aliens, Oliver Stone's Platoon, and Stand by Me—an adaptation of a Stephen King novella—probably stole some of Bueller's comedy thunder that year. Still, this 6-card set just wouldn't be a set without Bueller and company.
(4) For a card set that features great film trios of the 1980s, Ned, Dusty, and Lucky were a natural fit. This is the one movie in the set that was released for the Christmas season instead of the summer. Must have been an absolute hoot to see this in theaters back then.
(5) Weird Science isn't one of my all-time favorite films from the '80s, but it's a total classic, featuring huge 1980s starlet Kelly LeBrock, plus Anthony Michael Hall, who was on an incredible run of films like National Lampoon's Vacation, Sixteen Candles, and The Breakfast Club.

(6) To round out the 6-card set, we've got a trio starring in what I consider a vastly underrated film of the decade. Before his more serious roles in films like Top Gun, The Doors, Tombstone, and The Saint, Mr. Kilmer showed off his comedy chops in Real Genius, and even earlier than that, in another wacky film called Top Secret! Just as with Trading Places, I highly recommend you add this film to your watch list if you've never seen it. Or even if you have.
And there's your 6-card set.
As for the card design, although it's from the 1970s (1972 to be specific), which doesn't match up with the 1980s release dates of the films in this set, I think it does feel perfect for film cards. That font running across the top of each card is called "Broadway". And the whole look on the card front resembles a movie theater marquee, or even a movie poster that you'd see outside the main entrance of a theater. So I think it works just fine. The different colors from the original 1972 set really help this special 6-card set stand out, too.

For the backs, I wanted to capture the unique look of each movie title, as well as add some "back-of-the-card" stats of some type. I went with Release Date, Running Time, Box Office Gross, No. of Theaters, and High Weekly Rank. They help tell the story of each film, while simultaneously helping to fill out the space toward the bottom of each card.
I will also say that I thought about representing some other film trios of the '80s. For example, there's Rocky, Adrian, and Mick from the Rocky films. And then there's Indiana Jones, Short Round, and Willie Scott from Temple of Doom. But trading cards already exist for those films, and in both of those cases the entire franchise wouldn't have been represented. I didn't want to have the name on the front of a card be something like "Rocky III" or "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom". It just seemed incomplete. So I stuck with a 6-card total.

So now it's time for you to share something in the comment section. Do you have a favorite film of the bunch? Have you seen all six of them? Is there another 1980s film trio that you would have liked to see included in the set?

Let me know, and thanks for reading!